Anti-appropriation culturelle

David Chapman a consacré quelques billets à une mascarade qu’il dénonce régulièrement : le bouddhisme occidental a perdu toute substance pour devenir une éthique vaguement progressistes et emplie de compassion, sans souci pour les enseignement bouddhistes traditionnels, le fameux Consensus Buddhism. Non seulement les préceptes bouddhistes traditionnels ne sont pas un système éthique, argue-t-il, mais ils n’ont rien à voir avec leur version occidentale délavée.

Récemment :

  1. “Buddhist ethics” is not Buddhist ethics
  2. “Buddhist ethics” is a fraud
  3. Traditional Buddhism has no ethical system
  4. Buddhist morality is Medieval
  5. How Asian Buddhism imported Western ethics
  6. Why Westerners rebranded secular ethics as “Buddhist” and banned Tantra
  7. FTFY Buddhist Ethics

En somme, des occidentaux New Age un peu orientalistes auraient drapé une éthique séculière, protestante, consensuelle dans un vocabulaire bouddhiste, afin de l’ancrer. Cela leur permettait de se distancer des sources chrétiennes de la morale, de donner l’impression de se libérer de l’ethnocentrisme et enfin ça leur donnait le frisson exotique qu’il fallait pour vendre tout ça.

FTFY [Fixed That For You] Buddhist sermons generally go like this:

  1. Buddhism says we should be compassionate.
  2. Here are some holy quotes about how important compassion is.
  3. Now consider this hot-button Western ethical issue: (abortion, income inequality, transphobia, GMOs, whatever).
  4. Clearly, the compassionate approach to this issue is [the leftish secular opinion].
  5. Since Buddhism is a religion of compassion, we can see that the Buddhist ethical approach to this is [the leftish secular opinion].
  6. Therefore, [the leftish secular opinion].
  7. Because Buddhism is right.
  8. We know it is right because [the leftish secular opinion] is compassionate, and Buddhism endorses [the leftish secular opinion], as I explained.
  9. Which proves that Buddhism is a religion of compassion, and therefore right.
  10. Here’s a Dalai Lama quote. It’s not about this issue, but you must agree he’s extremely compassionate. (FTFY Buddhist Ethics)


Du coup je me demandais comment appeler ça : ce n’est pas de l’appropriation culturelle — rien n’est emprunté au bouddhisme sinon peut-être son vocabulaire — mais on drape des conceptions occidentales comme non-occidentales. C’est ce dont on accusait Conrad dans Heart Of Darkness : d’utiliser ses personnages congolais comme des marionnettes porteuses de sagesse destinées au héros occidental. Ça rejoint sur ce que je disais sur l’onomastique des monstres (désolé, rédigé en anglais) :

But the fact is Greeks are not the only one to come up with creepy womanly creatures luring men out of their path. For example, take the polish Rusalki, very often translated as «mermaid»

Of course there are differences of cosmology (they are not mythical beings given wings in the quest for Persephone like told in Ovid, Met. V.551 but are undead souls, born of violent deaths, vengeful spirits) setting (the sea vs. swamps, rivers) and lore, but when you translate it, you say «mermaid» and most of the «luring men to their death» trope is understood by the reader, whereas Rusalka wouldn’t ring a bell. (accounts of Nawki also seem very similar)

In this vein, Odmience are changelings, Vilas are wind spirits akin to nymphs, Strzyga share a few things with vampires or ghouls, Karzełek/Skarbnik are Dwarfs, and like previously said Rusalka/Nawki look like mermaids.

Sirens/mermaids are the trope namer, here, reuniting under this semantic umbrella varying creatures. Of course we can discuss this tendency to name things according to the closest mythology that is familiar to a western audience. I think it’s wrong to just categorize any spirit as a ghost or any creature draining life/power as a vampire. But I think it would be wrong to think that because something is a trope namer, it’s also the origin of the trope.

WordMercenary’s tweet lists the Golem as a creature of Jewish medieval folklore, which it certainly is. But an animate being made to obey order and created from mineral matter?Homer mentions (Iliad 18.422) that Hephaistos is served by golden automatons :

The bellows he set away from the fire, and gathered all the tools wherewith he wrought into a silver chest; and with a sponge wiped he his face and his two hands withal, [415] and his mighty neck and shaggy breast, and put upon him a tunic, and grasped a stout staff, and went forth halting; but there moved swiftly to support their lord handmaidens wrought of gold in the semblance of living maids. In them is understanding in their hearts, and in them speech [420] and strength, and they know cunning handiwork by gift of the immortal gods. These busily moved to support their lord

Some people tell that zombies are cultural appropriation given it comes from haitian folklore and was heavily linked to the history of slavery, but many features of the zombie can be found in accounts of the scandinavia draugar, or in some other types of undead. (often not as clear cut as in modern classifications)

If you think of the wish-fulfilling powerful Djinn, à la Aladdin, many fairies, leprechauns and whatnot can do the job, although they won’t have that much to do with the quranic djinns, powerful beings who, like humanity, have the free will to submit or not to islam and to whom a few surahs are addressed.

In those three cases, an exotic-sounding name (Djinn, Zombie, Golem) is given to an entire type of monsters that might have even existed in western mainstream folklore beforehand but didn’t have a proper general name. Folklorists might kill me for making such generalizing statements but I think it is mainly a modern phenomena in which modern fantasy/horror authors try to purify typologies that were very messy before. Most of those creatures seem invented to explain different forms of diseases and bad luck : why do children get lost in corn fields, why do sailors tend to get lost at sea, why do people get heatstrokes while working in the field. Some play on different fears : fear of the dead (undead, ghosts), fear of the wilds (beasts), fear of impostors (changelings). They can be really redundant. Most Draugar share traits with Vampires, Ghouls or whatnot. And more often than not the nature of the creature is unclear : is it corporeal? Is it a ghost, a spiritual being? (The Witcher, Monsters and 


Un auteur prend quelque chose qui existe en Occident, qui vient d’Occident (comme l’auteur) et lui prétend une origine ailleurs. Je ne sais pas si ça recouvre réellement la catégorie d’appropriation culturelle (devrait-on dire expropriation ?) où quelqu’un qui ne vient pas d’une culture la met en scène et en récolte les fruits.





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